Word Up (or down, as the case may be…)— Dec 18, 2010
Google Labs has a new Ngram tool where you can compare results for specified words from within Google’s collection of scanned books. Simply input whatever words you wish, and nearly instantly you can track its usage over the specified time range. (Granted, for some words you probably need to already have some familiarity of when it started to be used in literature.)
I decided to try it out. The first was the relative use of the names of theologians between 1800-2008. Here is the first chart I generated between Tertullian, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Athanasius, and Gregory Palamas:
As is easy to see, St. Augustine clearly dominates. As I was thinking about it, my data set is probably a bit skewed from the outset in regards to comparison. For example, Palamas barely registers at all, despite being one of the more influential theologians for the Orthodox Church. I suspect the partial reason for this is that the search is for books written in English within this time period; thus, there is probably a built-in tendency to write about Western theologians. Additionally, for the first century and a half or so of this time frame, these particular subjects would have been far more likely to appear in German or French. I re-ran the data for German and French:
In the English speaking world, at least, Aristotle and Plato seem to hold their own. (I tried it in German, and Kant clearly dominated.)
I’ll leave the analysis of the results to the viewer.